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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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ACT IV SCENE II Athens. A room in QUINCE'S house. 
QUINCE Have you sent to Bottom's house? is he come home yet? 
STARVELING He cannot be heard of. Out of doubt he is 
FLUTE If he come not, then the play is marred: it goes
 not forward, doth it? 
QUINCE It is not possible: you have not a man in all 
 Athens able to discharge Pyramus but he. 
FLUTE No, he hath simply the best wit of any handicraft 
 man in Athens. 10
QUINCE Yea and the best person too; and he is a very 
 paramour for a sweet voice. 
FLUTE You must say 'paragon:' a paramour is, God bless us, 
 a thing of naught. 
 Enter SNUG 
SNUG Masters, the duke is coming from the temple, and
 there is two or three lords and ladies more married: 
 if our sport had gone forward, we had all been made 
FLUTE O sweet bully Bottom! Thus hath he lost sixpence a 
 day during his life; he could not have 'scaped
 sixpence a day: an the duke had not given him 
 sixpence a day for playing Pyramus, I'll be hanged; 
 he would have deserved it: sixpence a day in 
 Pyramus, or nothing. 
 Enter BOTTOM 
BOTTOM Where are these lads? where are these hearts?
QUINCE Bottom! O most courageous day! O most happy hour! 
BOTTOM Masters, I am to discourse wonders: but ask me not 
 what; for if I tell you, I am no true Athenian. I 
 will tell you every thing, right as it fell out. 
QUINCE Let us hear, sweet Bottom. 29
BOTTOM Not a word of me. All that I will tell you is, that 
 the duke hath dined. Get your apparel together, 
 good strings to your beards, new ribbons to your 
 pumps; meet presently at the palace; every man look 
 o'er his part; for the short and the long is, our
 play is preferred. In any case, let Thisby have 
 clean linen; and let not him that plays the lion 
 pair his nails, for they shall hang out for the 
 lion's claws. And, most dear actors, eat no onions 
 nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath; and I
 do not doubt but to hear them say, it is a sweet 
 comedy. No more words: away! go, away! 40 

Next: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 5, Scene 1


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 2

From A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan & Co.

3. transported, made away with, carried off by some agency; it seems hardly necessary to take the word as an euphemism for 'murdered,' as Schmidt does.

8. discharge, play; see note on i. 2. 84.

9, 10. the best ... man, a confusion of constructions between 'a better wit than any handicraft man,' and 'the best wit of all handicraft men'; handicraft, from "A.S. handcroeft, a trade, the insertion of i being due to an imitation of the form of handiwork, in which i is a real part of the word ... from A.S. hand and geweorc, another form of weorc work"... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

13. paragon, "a model of excellence ... F. paragon, 'a paragon, or peerlesse one'; Cot. — Span. paragon, a model, paragon. A singular word owing its origin to two prepositions united in a phrase. —Span. para con ... —Span. para, for ... which is itself a compound preposition, answering O. Span. pora, from Lat. pro ad ... and con from Lat. cum. Thus it is really equivalent to the three Lat. prepositions pro, ad, cum" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

14. a thing of naught, a worthless thing; naught, from which our word naughty, being the A.S. nawhit, no thing.

15. from the temple, i.e. after his marriage there.

17. had gone forward, had been carried out; if our play had been acted: we had ... men, our fortunes would have been made; cp. T. N. ii. 6. 168, "Go to, thou art made, if thou desirest to be so."

18. bully, see note on iii. 1. 7.

19. 'scaped, missed getting; Flute employs for missing a piece of good fortune a word more properly used of getting out of a difficulty, scrape.

20, 1. an the duke ... hanged, I'll be hanged if the duke would not have given, etc., i.e. assuredly the duke would have given.

22. sixpence ... nothing, if he were rewarded at all, as he was sure to have been, the reward for his playing Pyramus could not have been less than sixpence a day for life: in Pyramus, in his character as Pyramus. Steevens thinks there may here be an allusion to a pension of twenty pounds a year bestowed on one Thomas Preston for his acting before Elizabeth at Cambridge in 1564.

23. hearts, brave fellows, sc. his comrades; cp. Temp, i. 1. 7. "cheerly, cheerly, my hearts!"

24. courageous, possibly Bottom means 'auspicious.'

26. I am to, I have to; it is what I am bound to do; cp. Tim. 1. 2. 155, "I am to thank you for it"; and see Abb. § 405.

31, 2. good strings to your beards, i.e. so that they may not fall off in the acting: pumps, court shoes, thin-soled shoes. "So called ... because worn for 'pomp' or ornament, by persons in full dress.— 'F. pompe, pomp, state ... a pied de plombe et de pompe, with a slow and stately gate [gait]: Cot.'" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

34. the short and the long, the fact; the whole story; more commonly 'the long and the short of the matter': preferred, is generally explained as 'offered for acceptance'; but Bottom seems certain that the play has been accepted, and probably the word means has 'received the honour of being accepted.'

36. shall hang, are bound to hang, must hang.

38. we are to utter, it is our duty to breathe.


How to cite the explanatory notes:

Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1891. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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